Tour of the British Library and its East Asian Collections
It was a cold rainy evening, yet more than 20 BKWS Members, family and friends came and enjoyed the British Library tour guided by Mr. Hamish Todd, Lead Curator of the Japanese and Korean Collections as well as Ms Sara Chiesura, Curator of the Chinese Collections.
Hamish greeted us in the lobby and began by telling us about the history and overview of the Library. He showed us the architectural model of the Library as well as the impressive King's library in the centre of the building.
We then moved on to see the Chinese collections. Sara showed us important equipments used for woodblock printing such as a woodblock plate, block-cutter's tools and brushes. We also had a look at the bound books of delicate woodblock prints including the Ten Bamboo Studio, New Testament, and Biographies of Eminent Women. A modern version of the One Hundred Beauties theme was also on display.
Furthermore, Hamish guided us to see a few prominent items in the Korean Collections. We learnt that a key figure in the growth of the Korean collection was a British diplomat named Sir Ernest Satow (1843-1929) whose book collecting in Japan included numerious Korean printed editions.
One particularly beautiful item we saw was the royal commemorative manuscript of 1809 called Kisa chin p'yori chinch'an uigwe. The book records and holds detailed writings and drawings about royal ceremonies conducted in honour of Lady Hyegyong (1735-1815), widow of Crown Prince Sado (1735-62) and grandmother of King Sunjo (1790-1834). There were also 15th and 16th century editions of the Confucian texts which carry both the original Chinese writings and the explanations in Korean alphabets. We were happy to see old print editions of the first and famous Korean novel Tale of Hong gil dong as well as Taedong Yojido, the atlas of Korean provinces.
The library also boasts an extensive collection of Japanese printed works and manuscripts. Hamish showed us Tengu no diari, the illustrated manuscript in 2 rolls, which was originally produced in the late 16th century.
We then were given some time to look again at our favourite items and discuss further with the curators. Our tour, which lasted for two hours, was followed by dinner at local Korean restaurant Biwon where Hamish and Sara also joined to enjoy the food and the rest of the evening.